Sunday, June 12, 2022

Westminster & the Death of the Fox Terrier

A repost from July 2004

I came across an interesting book in the stacks -- "The Dog Show" By William Stifel (2003, Westminster Kennel Club).
This is a very well-done coffee table book celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Westminster Kennel Club, the biggest dog show in the U.S.  
I did not buy the book, but I read a bit and discovered an amazing thing that helps explains the very rapid degeneration of the fox terrier between 1900 and World War II. 

  • The first "Best in Show" winner at Westminster in New York City was in 1907. This first "Best in Show" winner was a smooth fox terrier that looked very much like today's Jack Russell.

  • Fox terriers won again in 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1926, 1928, 1930, 1931, 1934, 1937 and 1942.

  • A Sealyham (another working breed ruined by the show ring) won in 1924, 1927 and 1936.

  • Airedales made Best in Show in 1912, 1919, 1920, 1933, and 1936.

  • A bull terrier went Best In Show in 1918, and a Welsh Terrier in 1944.

As you can see, almost all the early winners were terriers, and most of them were fox terriers.

It was during this period of time that the face of the fox terrier was elongated and the chest enlarged by show ring breeders.

Prior to World War II, if you were really intent on wining the top award at a dog show, you were into fox terriers.

Probably no breed could have survived such intent attention without being wrecked by fad.

The fox terrier certainly did not. 

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